NEW ORLEANS, LA (WDSU)– Lurking in the trees, benches, and sidewalks around New Orleans are small, furry and quiet creatures. The “puss moth” caterpillars look kind of cute and cuddly, but don’t let their exteriors fool you.
Karl Mischler remembers when he was stung by a puss moth caterpillar decades ago.
“That pain was indescribable. And it was probably the worst pain I’ve been through. I was 7 or 8 years old, and I brushed up against one of them and it stung me so bad, I thought it was the end of the world pretty much,” Mischler describes. “I’m in my 50s now, so it’s quite a while back, but with that kind of pain you never forget.”
The caterpillar measures only about an inch or two in length, but beneath its coat of hairs are venomous, little stingers.
“If you are stung by one, it can be excruciatingly painful. And I’m going to say that because I’ve actually been bitten by a snake before, and I got bitten by a caterpillar, and the caterpillar bite was much more painful than the snake bite,” WDSU’s medical editor Dr. Corey Hebert said.
Dr. Hebert said that most people stung by the venomous caterpillar will experience localized redness, swelling and warmth for several hours, but the pain will likely subside with no adverse reactions.
The puss moth caterpillar isn’t found in Ohio. Their habitat is mostly located in the southern United States between North Carolina and Florida.